Teenage Wrist – ‘Earth Is A Black Hole’

By James Lillywhite

Nostalgia is big business these days – and when Teenage Wrist first came on the scene, they were one of many groups trying to recapture that 90s alt-rock sound. When the LA group released debut album ‘Chrome Neon Jesus’ back in 2018, they were widely praised for mixing shoegaze, emo and grunge to create an excellent throwback record.

But revivalism can only get you so far – eventually you have to look forward. That’s exactly what Teenage Wrist have tried to do on sophomore full length ‘Earth Is A Black Hole’ and, on the whole, it is a huge success. 

It’s been a tumultuous few years for the band. They are now a duo, with former singer Kamtin Mohager leaving the group and guitarist Marshall Gallagher stepping up to vocal duties, and straight away you can hear the difference; while Mohager favoured a more lo-fi style, Gallagher instead puts the vocals front and centre. The group have also slightly toned down the shoegaze here, and embraced their pop sensibilities. They’ve always had an ear for melody, but songs like the title track ‘Earth is a Black Hole’ have choruses that will stay in your head for days.

Clocking in at around half an hour, ‘Earth is a Black Hole’ certainly doesn’t hang around. The duo manage to fit a lot into that short running time – this is an expansive, more dynamic version of Teenage Wrist.

The changes are an evolution of their sound, not a revolution. The record is still full of the trademark melancholy and distorted, fuzzy guitars, but the duo have made steps into the present as well. They have added aggressive, rockier parts to their sound – and, on the whole, it suits the band really well. They have both embraced pop elements and toned up the aggression, and the result is a more rounded sound that’s especially apparent on stand out tracks like ‘Silverspoon’ and ‘Yellowbelly’, where they combine all the elements together brilliantly.

They’ve also introduced electronics, synths and drum machines into some songs, taking a huge step into the modern day. This doesn’t always come off perfectly, and occasionally the new sounds clash with the more 90s-influenced parts – particularly noticeable on ‘High Again’, where the drum tracks sound out of place and a bit jarring – but the fact that the band even included elements like that has to be applauded. Teenage Wrist have, at the very least, ambition to be a more experimental, interesting band. 

This is the album Teenage Wrist needed to make. With ‘Earth is a Black Hole’, they have thrown off the ‘grunge revivalist’ shackles and entered a new, more interesting phase of their career. While inconsistent at times, there are some great moments on ‘Earth Is A Black Hole’ that make it a great step forward for Teenage Wrist. And it makes you really excited for whatever is going to come next. 

JAMES LILLYWHITE

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